The Homesteaders

The Homesteaders Series Cover

The Homestead Act of 1862 changed the world with its offer of free land. Millions of people immigrated to America seeking their fortune. Thousands came from Norway to the empty prairies of the Dakota Territory.

Esther Allen Peterson's Homesteaders stories are not true, but they are real. The things that happen to the Ytterhorn and Olsen families in the stories happened in everyday life to most homesteaders in the 1860s and '70s.

Esther first became interested in the lives of the original homesteaders when her minister husband, Donald, served four churches in Fairdale, North Dakota, thirty miles from Canada. She says, “The people were wonderful. They still had that pioneering spirit—that is, they felt a responsibility to look out for and help one another. The older members of our congregations were born in those sod houses, and their parents built those square white farmhouses that sat on almost every 160-acre parcel. When we arrived, those big old two-story houses were being torn down, and the grandchildren of those pioneers were building modern houses.”

Esther is the author of several published books. Her first book, Frederick’s Alligator, won a Christopher Award. Her passion is writing, but she also loves to share her interest in the early homesteaders at schools, historical societies, libraries, churches, and community gatherings.

"Reading the Homesteaders series is an opportunity to experience the struggles of pioneer life, with the family and community a focal point for strength and growth." – Marilyn Broding, MLS (librarian), Battle Lake, MN

"The Homesteaders series provides an adventure to readers of all ages. The books are easy to read and have high interest as the reader learns about the hardships and adventures of our immigrant ancestors. A must-read for readers of all ages." – Kirsten Olson, elementary teacher, Brainerd, MN

"The Homesteaders series presents quickly readable tales to help young readers understand the intense struggles faced by new settlers just after the Civil War as the railroad moved west. The historic insights are combined with worthy illustrations of how cherished friendships yielded solutions to severe struggles without bitterness and failure. Proven faith-based solutions are described in appealing ways to help young readers in their personal struggles with varying kinds of adversity." – J.S.C., Muscatine, IA

"Many of my students hear the voices of their parents and grandparents in the Homesteaders series. However, the message of hope in these books and the resiliency of the human spirit appeal to all students. With authenticity, Peterson pulls us back to our roots." – Toni Gredensky, Wahpeton High School, Wahpeton, ND

The Homestead Act of 1862 changed the world with its offer of free land. Millions of people immigrated to America seeking their fortune. Thousands came from Norway to the empty prairies of the Dakota Territory.

Esther Allen Peterson's Homesteaders stories are not true, but they are real. The things that happen to the Ytterhorn and Olsen families in the stories happened in everyday life to most homesteaders in the 1860s and '70s.

Esther first became interested in the lives of the original homesteaders when her minister husband, Donald, served four churches in Fairdale, North Dakota, thirty miles from Canada. She says, “The people were wonderful. They still had that pioneering spirit—that is, they felt a responsibility to look out for and help one another. The older members of our congregations were born in those sod houses, and their parents built those square white farmhouses that sat on almost every 160-acre parcel. When we arrived, those big old two-story houses were being torn down, and the grandchildren of those pioneers were building modern houses.”

Esther is the author of several published books. Her first book, Frederick’s Alligator, won a Christopher Award. Her passion is writing, but she also loves to share her interest in the early homesteaders at schools, historical societies, libraries, churches, and community gatherings.

"Reading the Homesteaders series is an opportunity to experience the struggles of pioneer life, with the family and community a focal point for strength and growth." – Marilyn Broding, MLS (librarian), Battle Lake, MN

"The Homesteaders series provides an adventure to readers of all ages. The books are easy to read and have high interest as the reader learns about the hardships and adventures of our immigrant ancestors. A must-read for readers of all ages." – Kirsten Olson, elementary teacher, Brainerd, MN

"The Homesteaders series presents quickly readable tales to help young readers understand the intense struggles faced by new settlers just after the Civil War as the railroad moved west. The historic insights are combined with worthy illustrations of how cherished friendships yielded solutions to severe struggles without bitterness and failure. Proven faith-based solutions are described in appealing ways to help young readers in their personal struggles with varying kinds of adversity." – J.S.C., Muscatine, IA

"Many of my students hear the voices of their parents and grandparents in the Homesteaders series. However, the message of hope in these books and the resiliency of the human spirit appeal to all students. With authenticity, Peterson pulls us back to our roots." – Toni Gredensky, Wahpeton High School, Wahpeton, ND

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A Long Journey to a New Home

Subtitle: Homesteaders Series: Book One, Revised Edition

Author: Peterson, Esther Allen

Subjects: American History; Immigration; Family Relationships; Norwegian-Americans; Homesteaders

Age: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Grade: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

ISBN: 978-0-88092-885-4

Order code: 8854

Price: $14.99
Website price: $10.00

Class sets: 10 or more: $8.00 each.
Order code: 8854S

A Long Journey to a New Home Cover

Driven by grinding poverty in the 1860s, the Ytterhorn family of sharecroppers in northern Norway sells their belongings to pay for passage to America and the promise of a better life under the U.S. Homestead Act. With their scant belongings and determination against all odds, they typify the migrants' experience. Theirs is a long journey beset by tragedy. During the sea voyage, Ma dies from childbirth fever, leaving Pa to care for a newborn and three other children. After much deliberation, he calls upon his wife's best friend Rebekka to come out and join them. Thirteen-year-old Trygve struggles with his feelings of loss while experiencing the excitement inherent in starting over in a new land of opportunity. After a stay with Pa's cousin in Iowa, giving them time to get on their feet, the Ytterhorns, including Rebekka, who is now Pa's wife, make the trek overland by covered wagon until they reach the Dakota Territory. Along the way they encounter plenty of helping hands and, eventually, a new homestead, land to cultivate, and a new beginning.

A Long Journey to a New Home is the first book in the Homesteaders series.

Driven by grinding poverty in the 1860s, the Ytterhorn family of sharecroppers in northern Norway sells their belongings to pay for passage to America and the promise of a better life under the U.S. Homestead Act. With their scant belongings and determination against all odds, they typify the migrants' experience. Theirs is a long journey beset by tragedy. During the sea voyage, Ma dies from childbirth fever, leaving Pa to care for a newborn and three other children. After much deliberation, he calls upon his wife's best friend Rebekka to come out and join them. Thirteen-year-old Trygve struggles with his feelings of loss while experiencing the excitement inherent in starting over in a new land of opportunity. After a stay with Pa's cousin in Iowa, giving them time to get on their feet, the Ytterhorns, including Rebekka, who is now Pa's wife, make the trek overland by covered wagon until they reach the Dakota Territory. Along the way they encounter plenty of helping hands and, eventually, a new homestead, land to cultivate, and a new beginning.

A Long Journey to a New Home is the first book in the Homesteaders series.

A Long Journey to a New Home Cover

A Long Journey to a New Home Sample Pages:

Will Spring Come?

Subtitle: Homesteaders Series: Book Two, Revised Edition

Author: Peterson, Esther Allen

Subjects: American History; Immigration; Family Relationships; Norwegian-Americans; Homesteaders

Age: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Grade: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

ISBN: 978-0-88092-886-1

Order code: 8861

Price: $14.99
Website price: $10.00

Class sets: 10 or more: $8.00 each.
Order code: 8861S

Will Spring Come? Cover

The second book of the Homesteaders series traces the Ytterhorn family through its first year in the Dakota Territory. Having arrived in May of 1868, the novel opens at the end of the summer with the family well-positioned to survive the harsh winter ahead. They have staked their claim of 160 acres, built a log house, raised crops, acquired livestock, and settled into the rhythm and routine of life, forming a tight family unit in the process. Still, the homestead is a lonely place.

So when the Olsen family arrives from Norway to claim the adjacent plot of land, the Ytterhorns are happy. However, it is September, and they worry that the newcomers are unprepared for the winter season. Soon a third family arrives and settles nearby, and not only are the Smiths unprepared, but Sam Smith seems to prefer the quickest and easiest way to go about trying to establish his homestead, often in ill-advised ways. Even so, the Ytterhorns extend a warm welcome to their new neighbors and help them at every turn. Together, the group forms a community of both giving and sharing.

Soon the families establish both a church and a school, carving for themselves traditional elements of civilization out of the vast and wild prairie. Rebekka Ytterhorn and Anna Olsen both give birth before the new year begins, adding life and joy to the community, but before long tragedy strikes with the arrival of a smallpox epidemic, and the families are forever changed by the losses that each of them suffers. Now working together is not just helpful but critical for survival. By summer, the remaining members of the Ytterhorn and Olsen families make a decision that changes their family dynamics in a way that is both practical and also beautifully heartwarming.

The second book of the Homesteaders series traces the Ytterhorn family through its first year in the Dakota Territory. Having arrived in May of 1868, the novel opens at the end of the summer with the family well-positioned to survive the harsh winter ahead. They have staked their claim of 160 acres, built a log house, raised crops, acquired livestock, and settled into the rhythm and routine of life, forming a tight family unit in the process. Still, the homestead is a lonely place.

So when the Olsen family arrives from Norway to claim the adjacent plot of land, the Ytterhorns are happy. However, it is September, and they worry that the newcomers are unprepared for the winter season. Soon a third family arrives and settles nearby, and not only are the Smiths unprepared, but Sam Smith seems to prefer the quickest and easiest way to go about trying to establish his homestead, often in ill-advised ways. Even so, the Ytterhorns extend a warm welcome to their new neighbors and help them at every turn. Together, the group forms a community of both giving and sharing.

Soon the families establish both a church and a school, carving for themselves traditional elements of civilization out of the vast and wild prairie. Rebekka Ytterhorn and Anna Olsen both give birth before the new year begins, adding life and joy to the community, but before long tragedy strikes with the arrival of a smallpox epidemic, and the families are forever changed by the losses that each of them suffers. Now working together is not just helpful but critical for survival. By summer, the remaining members of the Ytterhorn and Olsen families make a decision that changes their family dynamics in a way that is both practical and also beautifully heartwarming.

Will Spring Come? Cover

Will Spring Come? Sample Pages:

A New House for a New Family

Subtitle: Homesteaders Series: Book Three, Revised Edition

Author: Peterson, Esther Allen

Subjects: American History; Immigration; Family Relationships; Norwegian-Americans; Homesteaders

Age: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Grade: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

ISBN: 978-0-89824-886-9

Order code: 8869

Price: $14.99
Website price: $10.00

Class sets: 10 or more: $8.00 each.
Order code: 8869S

A New House for a New Family Cover

In the third book of the Homesteaders series, the Ytterhorns and the Olsens have combined forces into a single family. Now they need a home. The log house that the Ytterhorns had built and the sod house that the Olsens inhabit are both too small for the new family of eleven. So Nels Olsen and fifteen-year-old Trygve build a new frame house with enough room for everyone. Fortunately, their small community has grown, and they have an abundance of helping hands from other homesteaders who have immigrated from Norway for the promise of a better life.

But life on the North Dakota prairie is hard, and the weather is unforgiving, and it is perhaps inevitable that people will die. No matter the circumstances, however, the homesteaders help each other out, caring for one another with selflessness and an openness of heart. The path forward is always in sight, and soon the settlers convert the old log house into a school and a church, and it becomes the most important building in the community. But the weather is not only unkind to people; it is destructive to the landscape itself, and a devastating storm throws everything the homesteaders have planned into question, including the Olsen-Ytterhorn family's capacity to keep their frame house. It's not just a house, after all; it's their home, and only the kindness of others can help them save it.

In the third book of the Homesteaders series, the Ytterhorns and the Olsens have combined forces into a single family. Now they need a home. The log house that the Ytterhorns had built and the sod house that the Olsens inhabit are both too small for the new family of eleven. So Nels Olsen and fifteen-year-old Trygve build a new frame house with enough room for everyone. Fortunately, their small community has grown, and they have an abundance of helping hands from other homesteaders who have immigrated from Norway for the promise of a better life.

But life on the North Dakota prairie is hard, and the weather is unforgiving, and it is perhaps inevitable that people will die. No matter the circumstances, however, the homesteaders help each other out, caring for one another with selflessness and an openness of heart. The path forward is always in sight, and soon the settlers convert the old log house into a school and a church, and it becomes the most important building in the community. But the weather is not only unkind to people; it is destructive to the landscape itself, and a devastating storm throws everything the homesteaders have planned into question, including the Olsen-Ytterhorn family's capacity to keep their frame house. It's not just a house, after all; it's their home, and only the kindness of others can help them save it.

A New House for a New Family Cover

A New House for a New Family Sample Pages:

The Reformation of Grandmother Hulda

Subtitle: Homesteaders Series: Book Four, Revised Edition

Author: Peterson, Esther Allen

Subjects: American History; Immigration; Family Relationships; Norwegian-Americans; Homesteaders

Age: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Grade: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

ISBN: 978-0-89824-887-6

Order code: 8876

Price: $14.99
Website price: $10.00

Class sets: 10 or more: $8.00 each.
Order code: 8876S

The Reformation of Grandmother Hulda Cover

In the fourth book of the Homesteaders series, the Olsen-Ytterhorn family barely receives news of Grandmother Hulda's imminent arrival from Norway before she's at the railroad station waiting to be picked up. Hulda has a reputation among her grandchildren for being mean and bossy, and she's brought with her equally mean and bossy Aunt Ingaborg. And yet, as they do with everyone, the family welcomes the women into their burgeoning household with graciousness and warmth. It is not easy.

A new tragedy leads to two babies coming to the house the very next day, and that dynamic fundamentally alters the focus of both Hulda's and Ingaborg's energies. Suddenly they are caring for infants. Suddenly they have found purpose. Suddenly there is a future to consider. Everything changes.

New settlers to the community bring with them new tragedies and new opportunities for growth. One of those settlers is Anders, Rebekka Olsen's brother. His quest to join the others in their efforts to homestead the Dakota Territory lead him to become a vital link in the community chain. Before long, individuals have become families, and Grandmother Hulda and her once-intolerable daughter Ingaborg have become unrecognizable, the product of a community that puts caring for others above all else.

In the fourth book of the Homesteaders series, the Olsen-Ytterhorn family barely receives news of Grandmother Hulda's imminent arrival from Norway before she's at the railroad station waiting to be picked up. Hulda has a reputation among her grandchildren for being mean and bossy, and she's brought with her equally mean and bossy Aunt Ingaborg. And yet, as they do with everyone, the family welcomes the women into their burgeoning household with graciousness and warmth. It is not easy.

A new tragedy leads to two babies coming to the house the very next day, and that dynamic fundamentally alters the focus of both Hulda's and Ingaborg's energies. Suddenly they are caring for infants. Suddenly they have found purpose. Suddenly there is a future to consider. Everything changes.

New settlers to the community bring with them new tragedies and new opportunities for growth. One of those settlers is Anders, Rebekka Olsen's brother. His quest to join the others in their efforts to homestead the Dakota Territory lead him to become a vital link in the community chain. Before long, individuals have become families, and Grandmother Hulda and her once-intolerable daughter Ingaborg have become unrecognizable, the product of a community that puts caring for others above all else.

The Reformation of Grandmother Hulda Cover

The Reformation of Grandmother Hulda Sample Pages:

The Prairie Blooms

Subtitle: Homesteaders Series: Book Five, Revised Edition

Author: Peterson, Esther Allen

Subjects: American History; Immigration; Family Relationships; Norwegian-Americans; Homesteaders

Age: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Grade: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

ISBN: 978-0-89824-888-3

Order code: 8883

Price: $14.99
Website price: $10.00

Class sets: 10 or more: $8.00 each.
Order code: 8883S

The Prairie Blooms Cover

In the fifth book of the Homesteaders series, fourteen-year-olds Signe and Elna are preparing for a future as teachers. They are encouraged to take the teacher's examination early (teachers being in short supply on the prairie), and they pass it, enabling them to take teaching positions in small neighboring communities in the fall, when they are both only fifteen years old. It is difficult work for girls who are inexperienced and not much older than some of their students. Signe seems to settle into it, but Elna struggles, and she questions her desire for a career outside the home. However, the girls have witnessed the terror that a friend's mother has suffered at the hands of an abusive husband, and they have determined to build for themselves a life that is their own, unreliant on a man—especially the bachelors who come courting the single young teachers.

But when the man in question is Trygve, who is seventeen now and as good and kind a person as one could hope to find, Elna's vision of the future shifts. The three teens are no longer children; they are maturing into responsible, independent adults who are ready to carry forward the dream that drove their families to homestead in America. In the summer of 1871, it is not just the prairie that blooms, providing the homesteaders with its life-sustaining bounty; it is the youngsters themselves.

In the fifth book of the Homesteaders series, fourteen-year-olds Signe and Elna are preparing for a future as teachers. They are encouraged to take the teacher's examination early (teachers being in short supply on the prairie), and they pass it, enabling them to take teaching positions in small neighboring communities in the fall, when they are both only fifteen years old. It is difficult work for girls who are inexperienced and not much older than some of their students. Signe seems to settle into it, but Elna struggles, and she questions her desire for a career outside the home. However, the girls have witnessed the terror that a friend's mother has suffered at the hands of an abusive husband, and they have determined to build for themselves a life that is their own, unreliant on a man—especially the bachelors who come courting the single young teachers.

But when the man in question is Trygve, who is seventeen now and as good and kind a person as one could hope to find, Elna's vision of the future shifts. The three teens are no longer children; they are maturing into responsible, independent adults who are ready to carry forward the dream that drove their families to homestead in America. In the summer of 1871, it is not just the prairie that blooms, providing the homesteaders with its life-sustaining bounty; it is the youngsters themselves.

The Prairie Blooms Cover

The Prairie Blooms Sample Pages:

Signe

Subtitle: Homesteaders Series: Book Six, Revised Edition

Author: Peterson, Esther Allen

Subjects: American History; Immigration; Family Relationships; Norwegian-Americans; Homesteaders

Age: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Grade: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

ISBN: 978-0-89824-889-0

Order code: 8890

Price: $14.99
Website price: $10.00

Class sets: 10 or more: $8.00 each.
Order code: 8890S

Signe Cover

In the sixth book of the Homesteaders series, Signe and Elna return as teachers to their respective communities to teach for the spring term. For Elna, this will be her last stint as a teacher. She and Trygve will marry in the summer, when she is sixteen and he is eighteen, and go on to claim the land that the Ytterhorn clan has worked since their arrival in America. Signe, however, resists the idea of getting married. She enjoys the benefits inherent in a career of her own, and she explores medicine as an alternative to teaching. Why would she want to settle down into the role of wife and mother when the future is so filled with possibilities?

The answer to that question comes in the form of a tall, honest, ambitious young man named Lars. Newly immigrated to the Dakota Territory, eighteen-year-old Lars is setting up a homestead for himself, and he wants Signe to teach him how to read and write English, skills that will greatly improve his chances for success. He is immediately attracted to her, and Signe, despite her best efforts to remain unaffected by his bright smile, is drawn to him as well. Still, she remains firm: she is not interested in marriage.

During the ensuing fall term, a smallpox epidemic strikes the community where Signe teaches, and Signe, immune after having had the disease a few years earlier, helps the settlers who become sick. One of those unfortunate individuals is Lars, and in caring for him as he teeters on the brink of death, Signe discovers that her future can be all that she wants it to be—and more.

In the sixth book of the Homesteaders series, Signe and Elna return as teachers to their respective communities to teach for the spring term. For Elna, this will be her last stint as a teacher. She and Trygve will marry in the summer, when she is sixteen and he is eighteen, and go on to claim the land that the Ytterhorn clan has worked since their arrival in America. Signe, however, resists the idea of getting married. She enjoys the benefits inherent in a career of her own, and she explores medicine as an alternative to teaching. Why would she want to settle down into the role of wife and mother when the future is so filled with possibilities?

The answer to that question comes in the form of a tall, honest, ambitious young man named Lars. Newly immigrated to the Dakota Territory, eighteen-year-old Lars is setting up a homestead for himself, and he wants Signe to teach him how to read and write English, skills that will greatly improve his chances for success. He is immediately attracted to her, and Signe, despite her best efforts to remain unaffected by his bright smile, is drawn to him as well. Still, she remains firm: she is not interested in marriage.

During the ensuing fall term, a smallpox epidemic strikes the community where Signe teaches, and Signe, immune after having had the disease a few years earlier, helps the settlers who become sick. One of those unfortunate individuals is Lars, and in caring for him as he teeters on the brink of death, Signe discovers that her future can be all that she wants it to be—and more.

Signe Cover

Signe Sample Pages:

Homesteaders Set of Six Novels

Author: Peterson, Esther Allen

Subjects: American History; Immigration; Family Relationships; Norwegian-Americans; Homesteaders

Age: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Grade: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Order code: HOM6

Price: $50.00

Homesteaders Set of Six Novels Cover

This set includes all six books in the Homesteaders series, offered together at a reduced price.

This set includes all six books in the Homesteaders series, offered together at a reduced price.

Homesteaders Set of Six Novels Cover

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